Since hi-tech gadgets have become commonplace and affordable, children expect to see the newest ones under the Christmas tree. Parents can’t keep up with the pace of technology. Your child’s old iPod doesn’t have the capability of playing some of the most wanted apps, he complains to you, and it’s too old to update its operating system. If you don’t buy him the latest version, he will be socially maladjusted, he tearfully laments. You tell him it is only two years old. “Exactly!” he says. “It’s two years old already.”
When my children were growing up, we never had to think about what we would buy them for Christmas. We bought the latest Fisher Price toy, starting with the farm set (remember how the barn mooed when you opened its doors?) and working our way up to the Sesame Street Village and the castle. The little people that came with the sets didn’t talk or move unless the children spoke for them or moved them. They actually had to use their imaginations.
As our children outgrew the Fisher Price toys, they moved on to more sophisticated ones. My daughter did like her Barbies (okay, not a good example of sophistication), but books were more important to her. The boys, on the other hand, liked their Star Wars and G.I. Joe figures. I’ll never forget when I walked into my youngest son’s room one afternoon and watched him playing with his figurines. They were arranged in a very orderly manner that looked vaguely familiar. I listened for awhile until I realized he was reenacting the Iran Contra hearings. He was seven at the time. I realize I may have unusual children.
In my day we had even less to hang our imaginations on. We had dolls and Lincoln logs, skates with keys, and whiffle balls and bats. They never got old, and we never needed the newest model. What’s interesting is that our toys were not a lot different from the types of toys our parents had. That can’t be said about today’s children, and with the pace of technology, I think it’s a safe bet that their children won’t be able to say the same thing either.
I’m not making a value judgment here. After all, I’m writing this on my iPad and I wish my three-year-old iPod touch wasn’t so antiquated. I have fully embraced the technology of my grandchildren. But something tells me they wouldn’t understand the hula hoop.